Little sisters of Jesus.The way forward at 50

Grottaferrata, March 18, 2009

At the Mustard Seed in Killard,At the Mustard Seed in Killard,

Last year, a group of 15 little sisters from Europe, all in their 50’s, met for a week in Northern Ireland to reflect on their particular age-group and its challenges. Thank you for sharing what is important for you. I am happy that it is your contemplative life lived at the heart of the world that is your most precious gift and that you would like to continue to see how to live it out, how to give substance to this vocation.

Here is what the Little sisters wrote:

‘We were 15 to meet and share in Bishopscourt, Northern Ireland, where people are so welcoming and the scenery so beautiful! All of us were from Europe, living in communities in Europe or in Algeria. Our ages were from 47 to 53.

In the Community of the Little sisters, we are the middle aged group, between the elderly who have preceded us and those who come after us, including those who are entering at this present moment.

Although sometimes we are perceived by the elderly Little sisters as the ‘younger generation’, in reality we are all mature women, the age to be mothers of adult children or even grandmothers! We spoke together about our different life experiences there where we live, so now we would love to share with you what is dwelling in our hearts, our deep convictions, our desires, our questions.

What is the most precious for us and we were all unanimous in saying so, is our contemplative life lived among people in their everyday situations.

Our prayer life, our searching for God, our relationship of friendship with Jesus is the centre of our life. It is truly the treasure, the joy of our heart which makes our daily life fruitful.

We noted that at our stage of life our prayer life simplifies. We use less words and staying in the silent presence of God is what attracts us. Sometimes our prayer is marked by dryness and a feeling of solitude, as if we were passing through the desert. This road leads us toward more interiority and a deepening of our relationship with God. We want to centre on what is essential in life and feel invited to live this more clearly in daily life.

This thirst for God is also that of so many men and women who, in our agitated society, have a true thirst for silence, prayer and peace and who are searching for it there where they live. Could our communities answer their expectation and be this place of prayer and silence?

Finding a new pathFinding a new path

For us the Word of God is our daily food, a support, a light on our personal journey. We note that sharing the Sunday Gospel readings each week is a precious moment for building up community. The Word gives us the space where each one dares to make a new start with renewed trust. ‘It is a time of grace’ as one of us said.

We believe that our community life in all its fragility is a sign of hope for our world of today which is marked by individualism, by a fear of the other who is different from me, by self-importance and by so many wounded or broken relationships.

Fr Gerry Reynolds shows the Sisters round BelfastFr Gerry Reynolds shows the Sisters round Belfast

We realize that our communities are marked by each one’s personal history. How can we help each other, at any age, to reconcile ourselves with our past on the personal and community level? While visiting Belfast and in discovering the history of suffering of the Irish people, our guide, Father Gerry, invited us to visit the other's sacred space.

Martha and Gladys from Colombia with Cecilia from VietnamMartha and Gladys from Colombia with Cecilia from Vietnam

We believe that the charism, the gift of God to the Community is at the same time both old and new. We believe that it is incarnated anew for each generation, in every context of life, if we know how to let ourselves listen to our world and understand the Spirit working there. How can we cultivate a youthfulness of heart, which isn't linked to the age of the person, to be able to journey in living fidelity to the charism, in openness, welcoming confidently the present? How can we help each other, at every age, to live spontaneous enthusiasm and find new life in temporary solutions.

In our society where people from different cultures and religions mix together we are sad to observe how the laws on immigration are hardening. Our particular mission to be a universal family is more and more relevant. Despite the fact that to obtain a visa, a visitor’s permit or a work permit has become more difficult we want to affirm the importance of taking risks.

Some of us know through experience what it means to live this insecurity and we want to go on sharing out of choice this vulnerability with so many men and women are obliged to live around us.

Lay Community meeting in MaltaLay Community meeting in Malta

We also stressed the importance of giving hospitality and encounter with others a central place in our lives because we believe that the Kingdom of God is among us when we gather together with others. We want to weave links of friendship, tracing new paths towards building a more human way of life around us and healing divisions. So many men and women are thirsty for true friendship.

We want our communities be places of listening and welcome where every person feels welcomed as he/she is with respect for who he/she is and for what he/she lives. We are grateful for all the beautiful gestures of friendship and welcome which we already live in daily life.

The Lord called each one of us to belong to the community and each one carries in her the charism as a precious gift to share with others, to share with young people of today who are searching for meaning and for a way to develop their spiritual life. Many young women are interested in our way of Bethlehem and Nazareth and ask to know us. We are ready to let ourselves be jostled and questioned by them and we are happy to share our treasure.

We left for home , each one going back to their daily reality, strengthened in our conviction that living the life of a Little sister today is worth the effort!

The road to unity within ourselves, within our communities, in our neighbourhoods and work places, in our countries and in our Churches, is still long!

As at Cana, we have filled our jars with water. We have renewed our courage and will go on cultivating hope. The miracle is Jesus' concern.'